The story (by cowriter Jeffers) this film is based on was clearly inspired by Jack London's famously bleak short story To Build a Fire, pitting a man against the elements in the harsh, snowy Arctic wilderness. It's a very well-made film, but not very easy to engage with.
Ottway (Neeson) works as a wolf-sniper for a petrol company in the far reaches of Alaska, but is struggling with thoughts of suicide because he misses his wife (Openshaw) so much. Then on a flight to Anchorage, the plane is hit by a severe storm and goes down in the middle of nowhere. There are a handful of survivors, and Ottway soon becomes the leader when they are menaced by howling, growling wolves. Knowing they'd be safer in the treeline, he leads five other men from one peril to another.
It's fairly obvious early on that survival will require a miracle. If the wolves don't get them, they'll probably freeze to death. And if they survive the cold, they have cliffs, rivers and injuries to contend with. Sure enough, the plot quickly adopts a serial-killer approach, as the men fall one by one and the survivors struggle to maintain their resilience.
Yes, it's all rather grim. The scenery may be breathtakingly beautiful, but only if you have a warm cabin to view it from (and a wolf-sniper walking the perimeter). On the other hand, the plot is riddled with niggling improbabilities, the worst of which is the personal vendetta the alpha-wolf seems to have against Ottway. Not to mention the fact that we never believe these wolves are anything other than animated effects with an overwrought sound mix.
Thankfully, the actors all get fairly meaty characters to play, and even though some barely get a chance to register, they all have distinct personalities, thanks to some clever script detail and nice touches by the actors. Grillo has the most interesting role, as a tough guy forced to confront the fear he denies he has. And the film's oddly plaintive, elegiac tone also adds some interest, even if the repeated line "Live and die on this day" becomes a bit maudlin and sappy.